Waking up on Kilimanjaro on December 27, 2015 felt weird — I mean, aside from the fact that I was consistently waking up earlier than everyone else because of the time differences from home. I felt somewhat out of place perhaps because I felt my friends should have been here with me or I should have been with family during this time of year. Instead, I was on my own in another country trekking up the largest mountain in Africa. I guess if you’ve been planning this trip for over a year and preparing for it, things might become a bit surreal for you too once it is actually happening.
Regardless, we all found the morning to be pretty chilly but that was quickly cured with some hot tea and porridge! The mountain guides were always keen to make sure we ate a lot for energy, and pushed us to drink 3 to 4 litres of water to help with the altitude which we would eventually begin to feel the effects of as we progressed up the mountain. The porters and the guides are pretty efficient — once we finished breakfast, they packed everything up and proceeded up the trail. We, hikers on the other hand, were little sluggish to continue into the rain forest but it didn’t make any difference because we would be going at a slow pace through out the day.
Stopping briefly in the rain forest on a sunny day. I love the many shades of green. Many groups were taking breaks in the same place so it got a little crowded. Looking up, you can see the huge amounts of lichen hanging from the trees.
Today I broke out my trekking poles as I anticipated a pretty long day of hiking. We spent a fair amount of time trekking up the rain forest and would take breaks every so often. The temperature had also warmed up as we made our way out of the forest tree canopy. Eventually, we were able to get some good views beyond the rain forest into the lowlands.
This was also the first time where I had to make use of the water treatment droplets. In the past, I’ve been accustomed to using filters or boiled water but this time since we were running a bit behind, a number of us just asked the porters for untreated water and then applied treatments ourselves. A lot of folks had tablets but since I had read that tablets have problems dissolving properly in cold water, I figured it’d be better to get the droplets instead. The only tricky thing for me is that I had to wait half an hour before I could start drinking the water from my backpack’s water bladder.
We may have made our way above the canopy, but there was still a long way to go. The trail up ahead involves some steep ascents.
Overall the trail on the second day was relatively straight forward although there were a lot of ascents and descents in somewhat muddy or potentially slippery conditions. It wasn’t raining (yet) but the previous day’s rain had still caused the trail to be relatively damp. We did begin to notice that the clouds would start creeping on us by early afternoon.
It was pretty amazing to be hiking along and then suddenly find ourselves completely surrounded and immersed within the clouds. It was sort of neat to think of it as touching the clouds to some extent. Unfortunately it also meant that there weren’t a whole lot of good photo opportunities once the cloud cover arrived.
The clouds move out of the way just as we arrive in the Shira Plateau.
As we made our way past all the muddiness, we eventually made our way down into the Shira Plateau. I had read and heard from others that every so often, wildlife might be spotted in this area but alas, no such luck for us(unless you count a pigeon)! It was still a magnificent experience to arrive with such impeccable timing — the clouds moved past us and unveiled the beautiful plateau landscape.
The plateau is beautiful as is the cloud cover. What we cannot see at this time is the rest of Kilimanjaro. Arriving at Shira 1 campsite for registration Latrines in the distance.
It was a pretty long day for us despite the relatively short distance (9km). I was grateful for the slow pace that the mountain guides set for us because it allowed us to really enjoy and take in the natural landscape. As we arrived at the Shira 1 campsite, the porters cheerfully greeted us and kindly took our packs off our hands while we waited in line to register with the rangers.
We had arrived by about 3pm in the afternoon and the rain had also stopped. Some of the group chatted in the mess tent while others played hacky sack with the porters. I decided to take some time to catch up on writing out my journal while waiting for dinner. The group was also happy that there were many more latrines than the previous night (when there was only one…). Of course, some were latrines were in better shape than others. One of our group even decided to spruce up a latrine nearby by spraying it down with eucalyptus-lemon scent oil. I’m sure that became a popular choice for folks who needed to take care of business.
My failed attempt to take photograph of the stars above us on the mountain. Second failed attempt. This would be the last time I tried to photograph the night on the mountain.
Dinner was well-received as we had the fortune to dine on stew, butternut soup, and chapati. Most of us felt quite content, although I think everyone was struggling with drinking enough water to meet the 3 to 4 litre daily requirement. I have no idea how people can drink so much when I felt like I was force feeding myself. We also began to take our oxygen and heart rate daily tests more seriously now that we would be approaching higher elevation. The mountain guides would be monitoring us daily.
After being briefed on the next day, we all filed out of the mess tent and were happily surprised by the beautiful and clear dark sky — filled with stars. While I simply stood there in awe, everyone scrambled to get their cameras. I think we all spent half an hour trying to capture the night sky and I tried a few times but it didn’t really work out. Eventually despite my persistence, it got cold enough that I gave up and ducked back into my tent and went to sleep. The stars reminded me of the night skies that I experienced in northern Chile but it was awe-inspiring to experience this almost every night that we were on Kilimanjaro. In the middle of the night when I had to make use of the latrine (thanks to all the water we had to drink), the entire plateau was lit up by the moon. It was a pretty majestic sight — one that I was too tired to photograph — but I’m happy that I got to see it just on day 2 of this journey.
Check out Day 3 of the trek!